David Gilmour and part-time Orb turncoat, Martin “Youth” Glover had initially joined talents to collaborate on a version of Graham Nash’s Chicago for a charity project in late 2009. During the subsequent recording sessions and remixes at Glover’s house – in the company of The Orb’s Alex Patterson – the collaborators became increasingly immersed in the music and went on to record an entire album called Metallic Spheres.
Metallic Spears harks back to the old school concept albums of the 70’s; consisting of two ‘sides’ – the Metallic side and Spheres side. It measures in at roughly 20 minutes each side – roughly the same length as a slice of vintage vinyl. Each side is composed of five conspicuously intertwined ‘movements’ that will no doubt throw the mp3 generation into shuffles of confusion because there are no individual tracks to download. The movements are so seamlessly melded together that the CD version plays like one long, pleasing opus – with no obvious bridges that separate movements or sides.
The Metallic Slide side of the album features lush guitar layers trickling through oceans and forest Foleys to a hypnotic groove that gradually evolves into a voyeuristic journey through time and space. The coherent drum beats fade away into the void leaving the Floydian strings of David Gilmour and playful samples of Alex Patterson to ebb and flow between Martin Glover’s haunting swells and chords – that sound remarkably similar to the late Richard Wright in places. It is difficult not to draw comparisons between Metallic Spheres and Pink Floyd; with the latter part of the Metallic Slide falling into the ‘Echoes’ category.
The Spheres side of the album has a more tribal and purposeful timbre. Gilmour’s breathy strums gradually sink deeper into the resonant mix to be replaced by subtle layers of angelic vocals – that could have easily been plucked straight from Pink Floyd’s Live in Pompeii. In contradiction to the Metallic side, the rigid drums carry the momentum through to the end where a concluding symphonic arrangement builds to a crescendo fit for an Olympic closing ceremony – complete with double-decker busses, flying pigs, and a trippy laser show.
A big selling point of Metallic Spheres is the voice and guitar of Pink Floyd: David Gilmour. Such is his style that he only needs a single string to exude poignancy and mood. On Metallic Spheres, Gilmour’s sublime notes weave themselves soulfully in the mix; reverberating across the sound waves like whale song in a deep, blue ocean. This is signature David Gilmour: simplicity over complexity; understated and sensational. The album does feature some of his recorded Chicago vocals, which is my only criticism: David Gilmour can hold a note; it’s just a shame that on Metallic Spheres he doesn’t.
Metallic Spheres is arguably the warmest album that The Orb has produced this century. David Gilmour effortlessly utilizes his electric and lap steel guitars to complement the mélange of beats, chords and rich samples. Alex Patterson’s transient dubs and samples, combined with Martin Glover’s expansive chords, wraps the listener in a blanket of tried and tested ambient house that drifts across meandering cosmic landscapes, lush terrains and audible pools not too distant from Vangelis or Jean Michael Jarre.
This coalition of the ages between Gilmour, Patterson and Glover is a very pleasing and rewarding journey, but it is best suited to the genre enthusiast. It is unlikely that anyone who tunes in to watch cheesy karaoke singers murder good songs in front of an X-Factor audience is going to be moved by Metallic Spheres. For anybody who thinks that The Orb is the new Blackberry phone, or that Pink Floyd is a two-for-one cocktail, my advice would be to stick with the mainstream and buy the latest Scouting for Girls album. For ambient explorers and acid refugees, Metallic Spheres is a dreamer’s tangerine dream.